Tim Burrowes on Ian Barron

My interview to be an indentured trainee on the Aldershot News was a tricky one.

The
terrifying man interviewing me that afternoon appeared to have a speech
impediment, which left me asking him to repeat every question three
times, before taking a wild guess and offering an answer to the
question I thought he might have asked.

Somehow, despite the
worst interview performance local newspaper journalism has ever seen,
they gave me the job, on £5,010 a year. Even in 1989 that wasn\’t very
much.

Once on the staff I quickly realised that it wasn\’t a
speech impediment as such. There were two factors. First, Ian Barron
was Scottish. And second, he liked a lunchtime drink.

It also
dawned on me that the other bloke in the interview had actually not
been the editor, although it quickly became obvious that Barron was the
paper\’s personality and, as it turned out, the best editor the
Aldershot News never had.

He was a frighteningly good news
editor. While his contemporaries had moved on to Fleet Street, for
whatever reason he had not. It certainly wasn\’t for lack of talent.

He
rarely wrote, but when he did, the copy was always pristine – tight,
stylish and witty. It was a brutal process having him rewrite your
work, but I learned an enormous amount.

We were in the last days
of manual typewriters – two paragraphs per folio, with three folios
sandwiching carbon paper rolled into the typewriter to make duplicates.
Press day with him grabbing each folio off you as you typed it was
daunting. But it certainly teaches you to write cleanly, first time.

Barron\’s
typewriter had a different font to everybody else\’s, making a note from
him instantly recognisable. I\’ve still got several of them, covering
everything from the correct way to spell liaison (not liason), to
hard-won praise for a good job. Bollockings would be signed \”IDB\”;
praise, \”Ian\”.

The distinctive font also made notes from him
easily fakeable. It was a popular wind-up to leave a note supposedly
from him on a gullible reporter\’s desk.

Despite being a scary
figure when in a bad mood, which was virtually always, Barron was very
popular among reporters, particularly for his willingness to stand up
for editorial independence. Whenever his phone rang and the person
began with the words: \”Hello, I\’m one of your biggest advertisers…\” he
would transfer them to the advertising department without another word.

I gather he\’s no longer in the newspapers business – rumour has it he\’s running a B&B in Aberdeen.

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